How I learned to avoid peer pressure

Peer pressure — as the name suggests, is the pressure developed on you by your peers, friends or anybody who you are in frequent contact with. It generally results into a conflict between your mind (what you want to do in life) and what people are doing around you.

Back in 2010 when I was in my final year of undergrad, I started preparing for CAT examinations to get into one of the prestigious B-schools in India. I had interest in Mathematics in general but I didn’t have interest in doing MBA per se. I had an interest in Computer Science and enjoyed coding. But, when I saw more than half of the batch going to the CAT coaching to prepare for exams, I thought maybe I should also go and prepare for it. In India, IITs and IIMs are very prestigious schools and students study hard to get into them because of the sheer number of students that apply and limited numbers of seats in them. So yes, I too was one of them and gave a chance, despite it being not of my interest. And result? Couldn’t get the score which would lead me to IIMs or other good institutes.

I graduated in 2011 and joined a tech company in Hyderabad, India as a Software Engineer. I went there and lived with 3 of my batch mates from my undergrad. Turned out they also wanted to do MBA (genuinely out of interest and they did it too). But, since they all was preparing for the next year, I started doing that too (and you can guess, it was out of peer pressure) thinking that I would be left behind if I don’t do it. Comes CAT 2011 — prepared for it, gave all the exams and again couldn’t do it. Even my flatmates couldn’t clear it (It’s very hard to get in, as the applications are way too many in comparison to the seats). But they had to do it, so they tried it the 3rd time for CAT 2012 and believe it or not I tried it too. Results came and one by one all of my flatmates cleared and I didn’t. I still remember that night when my last result came. I was at work and results of XAT was out (XAT is for XLRI school) and I didn’t make it too. That day was one of the most depressing day in my life and I couldn’t take it. My home from my work was around 11kms (6.9 miles) and generally I used to take a shuttle back home. But that day I just walked and didn’t stop anywhere. There was only one thing that was going in my mind that what did I do wrong. Why is it happening to me?

Few days passed by and I remember the conversation I had with one of my undergrad friend. She told me to stop being so negative and try to work towards things I like the most and really want to work on. As I said earlier, that I had interest in tech and the honest person in me always wanted to be in that domain. Then I realized that I wasted last 3 years for something I didn’t even wanted to do. It was just the people around me (they didn’t force me, it was just that everybody was doing it and I felt a need to do it too).

That day I thought I would do my higher studies in Computer Science or equivalent degree. I started chalking down a plan on how and when to give GRE and all related stuff. I took guidance from some of my batch mates who were studying in U.S. and followed their advice. After the examinations and a lot of applications finally I got accepted to a program at Carnegie Mellon and that was one of the happiest day of my life. And slowly and gradually everything got into place and today I am an engineer working at Microsoft and I am happy in what I am doing.

It took me 3 years to realize that I should be confident enough to follow what my heart says and be honest about it. I learned that no matter what everybody is doing around you, you should always move towards your goals and don’t get diverted by the success of others or by what others are doing. It’s your interests that matters to you the most not others’ interest.

I hope this article helps somebody to just stop and think about what they are doing with their life and do what they really want to do. So, stop, take a walk and think. :)

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs